Tag Archives: creativity

Accepting the muse that shows up thanks to Big Magic

Finding your next great idea — or maybe you would call it connecting with your muse — can be difficult. I wonder if Georgie O’Keefe had self-doubts about her transition from dark cityscapes to colorful desert landscapes. I’m still mulling over what to do with my recent eclipse study, but have been recently captivated by the topographic map bookmarks we made at my recent Open Studio.

topography inspired bookmarks

These bookmarks continue to inspire me with their undulating line work.

I created the drawing for the second block from a real topo map of the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I have hiked this area which is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. It is filled with unexpected formations, from gorges to natural bridges, all noted by these squiggling lines. Back in my studio, most of my work does not depend on line work specifically, but I continue to be drawn to these topo lines.

topographical hiking maps

Topographical maps are not only essential when hiking, but aesthetically inspiring as well.

Topo maps are helpful and beautiful…

We have a collection of hiking maps from our travels in North America and Europe. In our recent trip to the Pyrenees, my husband and I relied heavily on a topo map to get us safely down from an exposed trail during an afternoon thunderstorm. The lines told us that yes, the scree-filled avalanche chute was in fact the way down.

I find these lines aesthetically pleasing as well. After the Open Studios tour, I now have time to get back to work, and kept thinking about these lines. The bookmarks we created were colorful and visually active, but perhaps not complex enough for larger work. This is where Big Magic comes in…

Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is essential reading if you are a creative person who sometimes puts too much pressure on your creativity.

Big Magic is essential reading

If you are a creative person of any type, you should get a copy of Big Magic and read it. I refer to mine so frequently that I don’t loan it out to anyone. In the book, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of several books including Eat, Pray, Love, discusses how to live sanely as a creative person. One of my favorite parts considers how we mistreat our creativity in our quest for fame or remuneration.

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.” (Gilbert. Big Magic, 154)

I am guilty at being unkind to my creativity when I demand to know before I start whether my next endeavor will be worthy of a frame — or a possible entry for a prominent show — or my next sale. When I yell, so to speak, nothing goes well.

So I’m back in the studio with two blocks, pushing topographical lines into new contexts. Will it work out? I have no idea. But grooving to my Spotify throwback list and rolling our fresh ink made for a memorable day. And there was no yelling…

 

 

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Developing your Creative Toolkit for Battling the Blahs

This blog post was delayed by the winter creative blahs. My usual blog writing afternoon found me stretched out on a sunny built-in couch, staring up at bare branches waving in the wind.

Later, another linocut artist trapped in a cold, snowy studio asked on-line: “How do you get through the doldrums?” So whether you are trapped in the snowy northern hemisphere, or the overheated southern, here are my best suggestions for getting through times when you just don’t feel creative.

Doing nothing might be best

Like an athlete, sometimes creative people don’t need to push, but to rest. Perhaps your mind needs rest, in the form of a nap or time spent not thinking about your current creation.

Clouds watching

Clouds are perfect for contemplation and meditation.

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Inspiration from another sea bed

Get out of your studio! Get in your studio! These push-pull messages are always with me as I decide how to spend my art time. We have been inside for most of June, as my area of the country has had record rainfall. As the sun began to peek out, I quickly kidnapped my husband from his nearby university office and we went out to the Indiana Limestone Symposium held on the grounds of the Bybee Stone Company in nearby Ellettsville, Indiana.
One of may favorite things to do, when I am not carving a new linoleum block, is watch other people creating — especially those who work in 3-D media. I find ceramicists and glass blowers fascinating. I have lived in Indiana’s limestone belt for over twenty years, and I wanted to see how stone carvers coax life out of our fossilized sea beds.
Amy Brier uses an air chisel to sculpt a figure out of Indiana limestone.
Amy Brier uses an air chisel to free this figure from the limestone.
Amy Brier, a co-founder of the annual event, showed us a technique where she used an air chisel to sculpt a figure. She explained that as she is working on an area, she is seeing each individual line as it makes its way around the figure. Her chisel is actually more gentle on the stone than a hand chisel and hammer, and the air forces the chips away from her. (Amy was very quick to mention this, as she insists that all of her students and those doing hand carving wear safety glasses.)
As she carved, the noise from the compressor was loud, but the carving looked surprisingly soft. The grey stone only hints at the entire ecosystem that lived and died in this place, giving us the material that we have used to create structures both grand and mundane. Amy talks in depth about her love of limestone in her Bloomington Tedx talk. She also designed the world’s largest anatomically correct brain that now resides outside Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences where my husband works.
Indiana limestone is shaped into an anatomically correct brain. Designed by Amy Brier. Located in Bloomington, IN.
Visit this sculptural brain at the Indiana University Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at 10th & Woodlawn in Bloomington. Visit it after dusk for an interactive light show.
I chatted with site director Delaine Gerstbauer about the challenges of deciding what to carve, and what to allow the viewer’s own visual system to complete. When is an incompletion a hint of something else, and when is it an error? This is a question I ask myself all the time. Too much and the work is to literal or static. Too little and the entire image is confusing and frustrating.
Stone and wood carver Delaine Gerstbauer is the site manager of the Indiana Limestone Symposium and also works on her own carving.
How much of “anything” should be carved away? Wht cn yr brn rd nywy?

I not only observed seasoned stone carvers at this event, but I also saw a noted neuroanatomist and a beloved local singer/songwriter, each lost in the creation and destruction of the carving. I decided since they were clearly there to stretch their creativity, they didn’t need me outing them, or acting like a groupie. I doubt I will ever have need of such anonymity, but I thought I would extend it to them.

One person I did chat with was glass artist Abby Gitlitz. I asked her about the differences between blowing and working her glass, as opposed to her hand sculpting a limestone block. She said that working in a different media helped her to get her creative juices flowing. We both wondered about the possibilities of combining her colorful glass with the quiet mat textures of the limestone.
Abby Gitlitz usually works with glass but finds working in other 3D media helps keep her creativity fueled.
Glass artist Abby Gitlitz uses a hand chisel to coax a form out of a limestone block.

Getting the creative juices flowing is so important, especially after you have worked very hard for a period of time. I’m taking baby steps with a new small linoleum block, and enjoying using my Iphone camera to capture images of inspiration. Perhaps next year I will schedule a few days at the Limestone Symposium and try my hand at relief carving in a whole new way.

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